Blessington Street Basin.
Harry Warren writes:
Dublin city has some lovely parks but not many parks would have contributed so much to so many Dubliners having sore heads after a night on the tiles as this charming little one. And not many of Dublin’s parks are at least eighty percent under water either.
Blessington Street Basin, “The City Basin” is a real secret garden, it is only a quarter of an hours walk from Upper O’Connell St and its history should be told.
During the latter half of the 18th Century the City Corporation utilised the completion of the Royal canal as a way of supplying drinking water from Lough Owel in County Westmeath to the city centre. In 1775 a spur of the Royal Canal was built to Broadstone along with the originally titled Royal George Reservoir, known to generations of Dubliners as, “The Basin”.
The installation of the reservoir began in 1803 and finished in 1810. The 15.1 million litre reservoir supplied water to northside homes until 1885. By 1869 as Dublin expanded the demand for water outgrew the Basin and the water supply was sourced elsewhere from outside of the city. Subsequently the Basin provided water, in a major act of conviviality, for both Powers distillery in Thomas Streeet and Jamesons distillery in Bow Lane right up to the 1970’s.
After that The Basin unfortunately fell into disrepair for many years until 1994 when the present park was beautifully restored and officially opened by President Mary Robinson.
To visit the park, walk past Parnell Square heading onwards up Frederick Street which merges into Blessington Street, and eventually you will reach the entrance. On the way enjoy some of Georgian Dublin’s architecture on the North side of the city. Many of the Georgian doorways to view on your route are original and are complete with elegant cobweb style fanlights above the door.
Enter the park via the fine wrought iron gates and enjoy the view of what was a city reservoir. Take a leisurely stroll around the rectangular pond surrounded by high stone walls and enjoy the flowers, trees and gaze a while at the artificial island created in the centre to encourage wildlife to flourish and flourish it does, as witnessed by the many ducks, swans, mallards and waterhens on view.
Along your walk you will find some fine sculptures of flora and fauna recessed into the northern boundary wall. By the way see if you can spot the bee hives. If you want to watch the world, go by there are plentiful park benches to relax on, they were donated by the ALONE charity to commemorate founder Willie Bermingham and his kindness for elderly Dubliners.
There is a nice walk along the Royal Canal Bank Linear Park if you exit at the rear of the Basin and turn right. The Royal Canal Bank linear park is the filled-in former Broadstone Canal spur linking to the main Royal Canal.
If you stay in the park there is a fine Basin Keeper’s mock-Tudor style lodge to view, built in 1811 and now lovingly restored. The original occupant of the lodge was William Ferguson and he had a colourful history.
To augment his Basin Keeper wages and despite the fact that the city in his time had 2,000 alehouses, 1,200 brandy shops and 300 taverns for a population of only 170,000, he opened a shebeen in the lodge. By all accounts it was a thriving business but his illegal activities soon came to the attention of the constabulary with the result that the City Corporation brought in a bye-law specifying that “in future none of the Basin Keepers be allowed sell Porter, Ale or Spirits, at any of the city Basins, nor permit any person to do so, under pain of dismissal”.
Today you will have to nip down the road for a coffee but you can sit outside the lodge at one of its many seats to enjoy the park and ponder awhile at one of Dublin cities original drinking water reservoirs.
All pics by Harry Warren
Harry’s Dublin appears here regularly, often on a Friday.